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Government blocks Seanad move to abolish unvouched independents’ allowance

An amendment moved by independent Senators making the ‘leaders’ allowance’ vouched has been defeated by the government.

The Seanad chamber: Members have voted 31-20 against a proposal which would require independent TDs and Senators to vouch for how they spend their 'leaders' allowance'.
The Seanad chamber: Members have voted 31-20 against a proposal which would require independent TDs and Senators to vouch for how they spend their 'leaders' allowance'.

THE GOVERNMENT has blocked proposals from independent senators which would have required non-party TDs and Senators to vouch for how they spend their ‘leaders’ allowance’.

The proposal, tabled by the independent Taoiseach’s nominees led by Fiach Mac Conghail, was defeated by 31 votes to 20.

The proposal took the form of an amendment to legislation currently going through the Seanad, under which political parties will lose their public funding if they do not put forward a certain proportion of female candidates for election.

The Standards in Public Office Commission, the political ethics watchdog, has repeatedly recommended that the current system – where independent TDs and Senators are not required to account for how they spend the allowance – be overhauled.

Independent TDs are paid €41,152 a year under the allowance, while independent Senators are given €23,383.

The payment is intended to assist non-party members of the Oireachtas who do not have the backing of a political party to pay for services like hiring PR agencies and secretarial help.

Similar payments are made by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to political parties, on account of the number of members that they have in the Dáil or Seanad.

David Norris was the only one of the 11 non-party senators who voted to keep the current arrangements, alongside Fine Gael and Labour.

Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin voted in favour of the amendment, alongside the four other University senators (John Crown, Seán Barrett, Feargal Quinn and Rónán Mullen) and the Taoiseach’s nominees of Mac Conghail, Jillian van Turnhout, Mary Ann O’Brien and Katherine Zappone.

Earlier this week TheJournal.ie revealed how new rules governing a separate allowance, the Public Representation Allowance, meant the unvouched leaders’ allowance was open to abuse by independent members.

The new rules mean that spending on secretarial and PR agencies is now covered under both expenses regimes – and because the leaders’ allowance is not vouched, members who were previously paying for PR agencies under the leaders’ allowance can now claim it against their Leinster House allowance and keep the refund for themselves.

Read: New rules may allow independent TDs to be paid twice for same expenses >

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Gavan Reilly

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